If you suffer from arthritis pain you’re not alone. Over 40 million Americans live with arthritis. Managing the joint stiffness and joint pain that comes with arthritis is a daily effort.
It can interfere with your ability to work, play, enjoy hobbies you love and even sleep. Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to alleviate and even prevent arthritis pain through simple lifestyle choices.
Arthritis is a degenerative joint condition and the main symptom is inflammation or swelling of the joints. Inflammation in the joints leads to stiffness and pain, and can negatively impact your quality of life. While many doctors and patients turn to medication to manage arthritis, these are often just a temporary solution. Natural lifestyle changes can be surprisingly effective alternatives that reduce pain and swelling. It can even stop, slow or reverse long-term damage.
It may seem counterintuitive since joint pain can make activity, well, painful. But if you stay active you can actually improve your joint health and reduce pain and stiffness. Opt for low-impact exercise like walking or cycling that won’t put added strain on your joints.
Stretching can help you keep your range of motion in the joints and help keep joints lubricated. When you move around the synovial fluid in your cartilage releases fluid that helps your joint move smoothly. Inactivity can reduce this fluid and make your joints more stiff. Do gentle stretches or yoga to maintain your range of motion and flexibility.
Certain foods are known to trigger joint inflammation. Inflammatory foods to avoid include sugar (found in foods like sodas, sweets, and many highly processed foods like nutrition bars), saturated fats (found in foods like meat, dairy, margarine, and many cooking oils), trans fats (found in fried foods and hydrogenated oils), refined carbohydrates (found in foods made with white flour like breads, crackers, and cookies), gluten (found in wheat based foods), aspartame (an artificial sweetener) and alcohol. In addition to these known inflammation-causing foods, some foods like nightshade vegetables or dairy products may trigger swelling in your joints. This can vary from person to person, so try an elimination diet to see which foods are triggers for you.
Anti-inflammatory foods are foods that support the body’s ability to reduce swelling and pain in the joints. An added benefit is that these foods can also help you maintain a healthy weight. Foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids like salmon, fruits like cherries and berries, olive oil, and dark green leafy vegetables like kale, spinach and collards are known to help the body reduce inflammation.
Meditation is recommended for the management of arthritis pain. Studies have shown that mindfulness meditation can help manage pain and depression that can result from chronic pain.
When you have joint stiffness and pain that can lead to a cycle of stiff muscles that make your joints feel worse. Gentle massage can loosen and relax the muscles so you have better range of motion and you’re more comfortable.
Every extra pound over healthy body weight is added stress on your joints. Maintaining a healthy body weight is one of the best things you can do to reduce arthritis pain and overall health and wellness.
Try hot and cold therapy for your achy joints. This can be done with a specialized medical machine in your home, or with something as simple as a heatable neck wrap and a cold pack filled with ice. Use heat to help you warm up for exercise or yoga, or to get your joints warmed up to start your day. Use cold after exercise to help recovery, or whenever you need relief for swelling or pain.